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In recent days a report by the Economist referred to India as a ‘flawed democracy’!. Ranking as 35th in a list of 160 countries – putting India in a list of 50 countries considered as ‘flawed democracies’ . This ranking is based on 60 indicators which measure electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
This must come as a bit of a shock to many of our political pundits who go on and on about our democracy and market it continuously as a virtue. But I tend to agree !
The recent debate on the weakening of the Prime Minister’s office lends credence to this perception. If after 60 years of Independence, one of our serious poles of our National politics, i.e. Congress offers to the nation only two choices as PMs either a person nominated by a family or a member of the same family/dynasty to continue its lineage of 3 Prime Ministers by adding a fourth one – we can’t but be a flawed democracy.
Despite the uncharacteristically vicious response by Dr Singh to this issue, it’s a very vital issue and deserves discussion and debate. Just as we despair every Olympics about how a country of a Billion never wins enough medals – it’s time we despaired about why a Billion people still need to depend on one family to find its Prime Minister !
This may come as a surprise to many because I am a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and conventional wisdom should have me supporting my brethren Dr Singh who is a member of the Rajya Sabha for the post of PM. But in reality a Lok Sabha MP is constitutionally and due to his popularly elected background, a far more credible and aware representative of the people. The simple but powerful concept of having to be in touch with thousands of your constituents on a regular basis and being made aware of their problems, challenges, concerns and moments of happiness –simply make a Lok Sabha MP much more aware of the real problems facing real people.
In addition to this, being popularly elected gives you strength of conviction and credibility when you stand up and debate in Parliament – a fact that can’t be touched by all the degrees and so called intellectual knowledge. In a democracy like ours that is the reality, The Prime Minister must speak for the people directly and not indirectly or on the borrowed shoulder of someone Political. This perception of the Prime Minister of India having to report to someone outside the Constitution has gained currency over the last several years and if this is true, it is very dangerous , It breeds sycophancy, Institutional compromise, favoritism and many evils that can only be bad for our 60 year old democracy.
In the case of Dr Manmohan Singh, the perception of a nominated Prime Minister is made worse by the fact that he is Rajya Sabha MP from Assam – a state that he has never lived in ever. Now to be fair to him, this is not un-usual and there are many leaders in BJP, Congress and left where the MPs don’t live in the states they represent. But off course none of them have been nominated or appointed to Post of Prime Minister – where the credibility, experience and contact with people are critical.
The issue of a nominated Prime Minister versus an Popularly elected Prime Minister seems to be developing into an election issue. It deserves to be and I hope as a result we evolve to a stronger democracy – one where Prime Ministers are never nominated, rather they have the strength of character to choose an election as the route to Prime Minister-ship and don’t need to belong to any particular dynasty or family and anyone with exciting ideas for and commitment to the nation can naturally aspire to be leader of a Political party and Prime Minister of our great Country!